pic·​a·​yune | \ ˌpi-kē-ˈyün How to pronounce picayune (audio) \

Definition of picayune

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a Spanish half real piece formerly current in the South
b : half dime
2 : something trivial



Definition of picayune (Entry 2 of 2)

: of little value : paltry also : petty, small-minded

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from picayune


picayunish \ ˌpi-​kē-​ˈyü-​nish How to pronounce picayune (audio) \ adjective

Did you know?


In the 19th century, in Louisiana and other southern states, a picayune was a small coin (specifically, a Spanish half real) with a low monetary value. The coin's name derives from picaioun, a word that means "small coin" in Occitan (a language spoken in Southern France). It ultimately derives from the Occitan word pica, which means "to jingle" and which was created to mimic the sound of coins jingling. The real as a monetary unit fell out of use, however, and picayune joined two bits in the category of small amounts of money whose name eventually came to be used instead for things that are paltry and small.

Examples of picayune in a Sentence

Noun our lives don't amount to a picayune in the great scheme of things Adjective They argued over the most picayune details. the picayune ponderings of a commentator who steadfastly believes other cultures are inferior to our own
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Vance’s investigation, which appears to be focussed largely on business practices that Trump engaged in before taking office, may seem picayune in comparison with the outrageous offenses to democratic norms that Trump committed as President. Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 12 Mar. 2021 But after months of family quarantine, combined with the confusion and exasperation of school-Zoom days, more of our wind-down reading sessions have involved the sureness of facts — picayune details about dogs and skyscrapers and coral reefs. Mark Athitakis, Washington Post, 24 Nov. 2020 If the last few months should have taught us anything, it’s the realization that who stands at proper attention for a flag and who chooses not to is a rather picayune thing to worry about given our current circumstances as a country. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, 1 Aug. 2020 However picayune and pitifully old-fashioned the bereavement may seem to most people, for me the erosion of style, clarity, and precision in everyday speech and prose is a loss. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, 22 July 2019 These rules may seem picayune, but frequent fliers take them seriously. Christopher Elliott, The Seattle Times, 22 Oct. 2018 No detail was too insignificant; no question too picayune for our scrutiny. Sarah Lyall, BostonGlobe.com, 15 May 2018 More often than not, the police station fielded neighborhood disputes that were remarkable for their picayune character. Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times, 1 July 2018 The assumption, in advanced circles, was that abstraction was wholly superior, raising large, lofty questions about the essence of painting instead of getting bogged down in the picayune details of postwar life. Deborah Solomon, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'picayune.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of picayune


1804, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1836, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for picayune


Occitan picaioun, a small coin, from picaio money, from pica to jingle, of imitative origin

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About picayune

Time Traveler for picayune

Time Traveler

The first known use of picayune was in 1804

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About picayune

Dictionary Entries Near picayune




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for picayune

Cite this Entry

“Picayune.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/picayune. Accessed 17 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for picayune



English Language Learners Definition of picayune

: not very valuable or important

More from Merriam-Webster on picayune

Nglish: Translation of picayune for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!